Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

NEW YORK — Stretch, embroidery and fleece have been hits, but structured career, for the most part, continues to be a dud.
That’s the consensus among store executives in a national spot check of fall selling.
Retailers were also confident they would be able to make up business lost to Hurricane Floyd.
Kathy Bradley-Riley, divisional merchandise manager of sportswear at The Doneger Group, a buying office here, said stores that were “clicking into younger dressing” were doing well; those still emphasizing traditional looks were not.
“Any products with stretch, such as stretch woven tops, stretch bottoms, and any kind of decorative, embroidered looks are doing well,” said Bradley-Riley, whose clients are primarily specialty stores. She projected her stores would post single-digit increases for fall.
Other strong items for fall were Tencel fashions and moleskin styles in both casual and career dressing.
Sweaters, she said, had been soft.
“Consumers are looking for wear-now products,” she said.
Bradley-Riley added that business casual had done well, but traditional career had not.
At Sears, Roebuck, a standout has been a collection of stretch pieces from its Apostrophe private brand group, according to Diane Paccione, vice president and general merchandise manager of sportswear, special sizes and outerwear.
The group includes shirts with three-quarter sleeves, long jackets, sheath dresses and beaded cardigans.
Other brands that have been strong are First Issue — which is sold exclusively to Sears — and Norton McNaughton.
Overall, fleece jackets and reversible nylon jackets have been strong for fall, Paccione said.
At Macy’s East, Kathy Bufano, executive vice president of merchandising, said one of the hottest items this fall was stretch poplin shirts from DCC.
The shirts are offered in solids and striped.
Overall, Bufano said, stretch had done well. Other best-selling stretch styles were stretch denim by Gloria Vanderbilt and Style & Co., Macy’s own private label. Gloria Vanderbilt’s skorts and corduroy pants also have been strong.
Bestsellers across the board in moderate were T-shirts with novelty necklines and khaki pants.
Bufano added that Sag Harbor’s wool jackets were faring better than they did last fall, attributing the improvement to updated styling.
Structured career continues to be difficult, she said.
Conrad Szymanski, president of Bealls, a 66-unit chain based in Bradenton, Fla., said he believed he would be able to make up losses incurred last week from Hurricane Floyd.
“September is usually the weakest month of the year,” he said, adding he was still expecting a high-single-digit boost for fall.
Still, Bealls’ losses last week weren’t small change. It had to close 40 of its 66 stores on Wednesday, losing $1 million worth of business.
“It was disastrous,” he said. “Business was off to a really good start.”
Business has resumed, and Szymanski said the stars at retail continued to be stretch capris and stretch woven tops, from a variety of brands.
“There’s still a lot of neckline interest,” he said.
In particular, Notations’ woven blouses and stretch denim pants from Gloria Vanderbilt have been standouts.
Michael Alexin, vice president of design and products at Eddie Bauer, which operates 550 stores, said sales had improved due to “a strong product assortment.”
“We are definitely doing more updating, making sure that our assortment is current,” he said. “Anything novel is selling.”
Alexin said what Eddie Bauer officials refer to as “femme-tility” — feminine styling combined with utility looks — had been a hit.
For example, he said, workwear-inspired pants paired with embroidered boatneck shirts had been strong.
Neutral shades such as stone and tan have had strong reaction, as well as pine green and berry.
Bestsellers were pocket T-shirts and cotton fleece fashions, such as zip-neck jackets with a sueded surface. And five-pocket jeans had done well, Alexin said.
Other strong sellers were khaki stretch riding pants with a single pleat, stretch twill capris and skirts that hit at the knee or below.
Lerner New York, the 640-store division of The Limited Inc., was doing well with boot-cut pants in knit, teamed with fake suede fitted shirts, according to Phil Mohaghan, vice president of marketing.
Other looks that received good reaction from consumers were fleece vests, paired with jeans or khakis, and cropped pants.